Overview: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as various state and local laws, prevent employee discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities. Under federal law, a qualified individual with a disability is defined as an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job. A disability can be (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment. This definition can vary from state to state.
Since the ADA was amended in 2008 - through the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) - it is easier to prove that an individual is disabled under federal law. Therefore, employers should aim to establish policies and practices that prohibit disability discrimination and focus on the interactive process. Employers should be careful regarding preemployment inquiries and employment decisions that violate the ADA. Employers should also understand that they are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities unless an employer can show that it would suffer an undue hardship.
Trends: Because the passage of the ADAAA significantly expanded the definition of disability, many individuals who were not considered disabled under the law, are now protected. For example, individuals with who are obese, who suffer from allergic reactions to fragrances, who suffer from post-partum depression and even individuals with a fear of heights have been able to prove that they meet the definition of disabled under the law. Employers should know that the current use of illegal drugs such as marijuana even if used for medical purposes is still not protected under the ADA. However, some state laws may provide users of medical marijuana with greater protection. As such, employers should be aware of all state and local laws with regard to disability.
Further, employers should be aware that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released guidance regarding individuals with or perceived to have AIDS/HIV. The guidance explains that individuals who are HIV-positive or carrying AIDS are covered by the ADA regardless of if they are showing symptoms of the disease. It also provides examples of reasonable accommodations employers can offer.
Author: Melissa Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued proposed regulations on employee wellness programs and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act consistent with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act and the Affordable Care Act.
This section helps HR professionals understand the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including: who must comply with the ADA; what certain terms mean, e.g., disability, interactive process, undue hardship and more; what is an employer's duty to accommodate; what acts are prohibited under the ADA; and how do legal obligations under the ADA interact with other laws such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or state workers' compensation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Maryland employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to disabilities (ADA).
In-depth review of the spectrum of Nebraska employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to Disability Related Leave; Requests for Accommodations.
In-depth review of the spectrum of North Dakota employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to disability leave and requests for accommodations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted on March 20 to send a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the interplay of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with respect to employer-sponsored wellness programs to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval.
In-depth review of the spectrum of District of Columbia employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to disabilities.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals who are regarded as having a physical disability under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.
The EEOC lost its bid to temporarily stop Honeywell International from imposing surcharges on employees who refuse to submit to biometric testing as part of its wellness program, which the EEOC claims violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Pennsylvania employers with one or more employees working in Philadelphia that seek to show their compliance with the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
HR guidance on disability discrimination and ensuring that employees and applicants with disabilities receive fair treatment.